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Album Review: Vitriola by Cursive

Cursive release their eighth album Vitriola on 5th October via Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU) / 15 Passenger (US). Over the past two decades, Cursive has become known for writing smart, tightly woven concept albums where frontman Tim Kasher turns his unflinching gaze on specific, oftentimes challenging themes, and examines them with an incisively brutal honesty. 2000’s Domestica dealt with divorce; 2003’s The Ugly Organ tackled art, sex, and relationships; 2006’s Happy Hollow skewered organized religion; 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen grappled with the human condition and social morality; and 2012’s I Am Gemini explored the battle between good and evil.

This album required a different approach, one which is more fluid and less confined as the band deal with existentialism veering towards nihilism and despair; the ways in which society, much like a writer, creates and destroys; and an oncoming dystopia that feels eerily near at hand.

For the first time in 12 years the album reunites Kasher, guitarist/singer Ted Stevens and bassist Matt Maginn with founding drummer Clint Schnase, as well as co-producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Jenny Lewis) at ARC Studios in Omaha. They’re joined by Patrick Newbery on keys (who’s been a full-time member for years) and touring mainstay Megan Siebe on cello.

It’s a wide and varied album and if you’re not familiar with Cursive you’ve probably never heard anything like it before. Opener ‘Free To Be Or Not To Be You And Me’ is relatively safe sounding but sets the tone of the album, bleakness the eternal searching for meaning and a dark future. From there on in its aggressive riffs duelling with a driving rhythm section and cello overlays.

‘Under The Rainbow’ challenges the listener with it’s aggression and immediacy. There’s no doubting the aggression and bristling guitars but somehow it almost turns into a pop track even though it acts as an indictment of the complacency of the privileged classes. ‘Remorse’ couldn’t be any bleaker and ‘Everending’ has a sumptuous bassline and overall beauty that contravenes the passionate end of the world remorse of the lyrics. The perfect example of how varied and unexpected each turn is.

‘Ghost Writer’ verges on the indie pop despite its self-critical basis, before closer ‘Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament’ is genre defying masterpiece of devastating riffs and neo-folk all while taking a haunting look at potential and hopeless societal collapse.

What a ride.

AD Rating 7.5/10

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